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Clarksville, TN – A special two-part Braves report!
(WHOA, try to contain yourselves. One at a time. Put your shirt back on, lady.)
In part one, I’ll hand out some fake mid-season awards, while we’ll delve into some trade prospects and the week’s usual minutiae in the second part, which will go out some time today/tomorrow/before next Memorial Day.
To the awardage!
Probably any discussion of the Braves success has to include Freddie Freeman, who leads the team in RBI and has been the most productive player, day-in and day-out, since the season began. If you’re looking for an MVP, he’s the guy. Numbers can be misleading in some cases; defensively, he’s every bit as integral to the infield as Andrelton Simmons, yet he has a -2.8 Ultimate Zone Rating (behind Dan Uggla!) that makes me extremely suspicious of that stat’s viability. Offensively, he’s not Chris Davis and he doesn’t have the power of Edwin Encarnacion or Mark Trumbo; unlike those guys, however, Freeman’s team is leading its division by a league-best seven games. He’s projected to have career-highs in average and RBI, he’s an anchor on the squad and if you want a big hit and Evan Gattis is unavailable, you want Freeman in there. Apologies to Justin Upton, who came out to a blazing hot start but who hasn’t done squat in two months.
Best pitcher among Braves in the first half, despite a strong challenge from Mike Minor, has been Craig Kimbrel. I find myself watching games thinking If they can just take the lead into the ninth inning, this one is over. He’s faced 119 batters this season; more have struck out (43) than have reached base (33). Good luck, opposing batters in the ninth inning.
The Andruw Jones Award for defensive game changer goes to Andrelton Simmons, and will every year until we rename the award for him or he dies. By the way, the winners of the first three awards are 23, 25 and 23 years old, respectively. Not just good times… great times.
The Dan Uggla Award for hopelessly lost defender goes to… oh, my, this is unexpected, it goes to Justin Upton! We knew the transition from right to left field would be tricky for J-Up and errors are to be expected. But man, he takes some bad routes to balls and has misplayed some real clunkers. Anyone that suggested Jason Heyward should be moved to accommodate Upton should feel stupid right now.
This year’s Jermaine Dye Award for former Brave tearing it up for a different team looks like it will be a two-man race between Jason Marquis of the Padres and Rafael Soriano, who cut his closing teeth with the Braves, saving 27 games in 2009 before moving on with big seasons in Tampa Bay (45 saves in 2010) and with the Yankees (42 saves as Rivera Replacement in 2012). He’s got 21 saves for the Nationals so far this year. I’d care more except KimbrelKimbrelKimbrel. Marquis is on pace for 17 wins and his first sub-4.00 ERA since 2004; however, he’s far more likely to implode in the second half than Soriano.
The Dumbest Managerial Move by Fredi Gonzalez Award is currently vacant. I’m as excited as you are to see how he wins that one this year. Don’t let me down, Fredi; try to make a pitching change while wearing your uniform inside-out or something.
The Kevin Costner in ‘For Love of the Game’ Award for the guy who is suddenly basically unhittable goes to Luis Avilan, who hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 21. Kudos to him for stepping up in the stead of Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty.
The season’s worst moment has to be losing Venters and O’Flaherty for the season within four days of one another. Just sadness and anger. I feel like playing a sad song and staring longingly out over a lake while I sip coffee or something.
That was sad. How about a season’s coolest moment? It has to belong to B.J. and Justin Upton hitting the game-tying and game-winning home runs against the Cubs in April (thank goodness for the continued awfulness of Carlos Marmol, or it’s possible we never would’ve gotten this moment). Since that’s been the only game I can recall both contributing to anything remotely memorable, I hope that wasn’t the peak moment of the Up-Up-and-a-Hey outfield.
As for mid-season hope, who might be in the running for the Chipper Jones in 1999 Award for second-half surge? How about Heyward – owner of some bad luck (.259 on balls in play) that shows signs of turning around (career-best 22.7 percent line-drive rate)? He’s striking out less than he has at any point in his career, he looks healthy for the first time in a while and he turns 24 in just over a month. If he can get his walk rate back up to where it was his first two seasons, he may be another guy to look at in the lead-off spot, although he seems to be most comfortable in the second spot or down around the six-hole.
Stay tuned… Part Two coming later.
About Colby Wilson
Colby Wilson is a free-lance columnist for the Clarksville Sports Network. He enjoys some of the finer things in life, but is at his most content lounging on the couch watching sports. If you like what he wrote, let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org; if you didn’t, keep it to yourself, okay?